Achieving your ideal hair color can be a journey — and it’s often a delicate one if you desire a “lived-in” look that embraces your natural color. I’m talking subtle pops of pale gold for sun-kissed blondes; dimensional-rich brunettes; or shimmering greys for those inviting this transition.
Lived-in color looks effortless and beautiful — as if it’s just how your hair naturally grows for you — but the truth is that this look is often the work of skilled hair colorists. Think of it like a “no makeup look” for your hair.
Three expert LifeSpa hairstylists share the services to consider if you’re aiming to attain this style for yourself.
A shine service — also referred to as a gloss or a glaze — is an in-salon treatment that can be a game-changer for all hair colors and textures. It not only adds shine, but also conditions the hair shaft and can serve as an additional or alternative option to a permeant hair color service.
“Shine services are a great way to enhance the tones of your natural hair color, and to change up your appearance without committing to a full hair color change,” says Emily Youngblood, hair stylist at the LifeSpa at Life Time Summerlin in Las Vegas, Nev. She uses Wella Shinefinity, a glaze, to deliver her signature lived-in hair colors for her salon guests.
While certain Shinefinity formulas can alter the color of someone’s hair, the product is unlike traditional hair color in that it won’t shift the color base completely or cover natural greys. Its purpose is to heighten hair-color tones, while smoothing the hair cuticle to create a healthy, conditioned shine. A clear gloss is also an option for those looking only for the conditioning and shine benefits.
“I love Shinefinity for when I want to add richness and manipulate the tones of natural hair colors from shade levels ranging from warm to cool,” Youngblood says.
Nikki Gnatzig, blonding specialist at the LifeSpa at Life Time in Brookfield, Wis., also opts to use Shinefinity for guests, especially those who either want to boost their natural hair color or grow out their greys. “Grey hairs often have a wiry texture, and this service helps give them shine and softness, so the hair not only looks amazing, but feels it too.”
Becca Gambrell, elite stylist at the LifeSpa at Life Time in Oakbrook, Ill., recommends adding the Shinefinity service when it’s time for a haircut, which she advises doing about every six weeks. “That timing is perfect for anyone on a low-maintenance color journey, but who still craves shiny, hydrated, and healthy-looking hair. A cut and a Shinefinity treatment can completely bring hair back to life,” Gambrell says.
In-salon and at-home deep-conditioning treatments are another option for amping up one’s natural hair color. Some treatments address color specifically, while others improve texture and hair health. Specifically, deep-conditioning treatments can help hydrate and nourish curls, strengthen deeply damaged hair, add body and volume, and brighten up fading color-treated hair.
“Hair-conditioning treatments provide a number of rich, essential nutrients to our hair that most of us lack due to environmental factors, chemical services, or just every day wear and tear,” says Youngblood. “I think about hair-care routines like I do skin-care routines, and I’m an advocate for regularly including deep-conditioning treatments into your regimen. There’s at-home care you can do, and then in-salon treatments with stronger ingredients. Consider these treatments like a facial for the hair.”
To understand what your hair needs and would benefit best from, Youngblood recommends tapping into the knowledge of a professional hairstylist who can share what treatments to do in-salon and what at-home ones are good for maintenance.
Gambrell is a fan of the in-salon Fusio Dose conditioning treatments by Kérastase because it’s a mix-and-match system allowing for more than one issue to be serviced. “The line features so many rich ingredients that can work together in various ways to create healthier hair,” Gambrell says. “I love how customizable it is and my clients really enjoy choosing a mixture that they feel is best for their everyday life and that also addresses their hair concerns.”
Once the hair is on a routine and responding to treatments, you likely won’t have to spend as much time styling either as the hair will be healthier, naturally bounce, and absorb light in a way that makes the color look amazing.
Blended highlights are an in-salon color service where hair color is placed on certain sections of hair to blend with the color of the remaining hair. Depending on the product used, highlights can be permanent or a demi-permanent, which is a hair color that washes out over time (wash-out lengths vary depending on the brand used). Hairstylists will work with you to decide what product is best for what you’re hoping to achieve with your hair color.
What makes blended highlights so great is that they are the most direct way to achieve that “natural” lived-in color look because a hair colorist controls exactly where the color will fall on the head, as well as how wide or long the color will be on a strand. The hair is the canvas for the stylist creating your desired look.
“I love doing super fine blended highlights — known as babylights — because they are a great technique for adding subtle tones and a little dimension to natural hair color,” Gnatzig says. “Babylights are also perfect if you are transitioning from permanent color to a lower maintenance style. I really love them for those who are embracing their greys, too, as we can add them throughout the hair to mimic the blend of natural greys.”
Lived-in looks can take time to achieve, whether you’re enhancing from a natural color base or aiming to return closer to one from color-treated hair. And Youngblood notes that there are multiple routes you can take during a grow-out process or to level up a current natural color.
“With my clients, no matter what method we choose, I always suggest that they embrace and have fun with the change,” Gnatzig says. “And once they’ve gotten to their desired color, we can still use glosses to add shine and soften the natural texture to continue to really elevate the hair for the ultimate lived-in look.”